By Anton van Heerden
Black Friday is an American tradition that has quickly taken root in Africa. The large online e-commerce shops and the major retail chains in many parts of the continent will be splashing out with big promotions and marketing campaigns to get consumers to part with their cash.
This day takes place the first Friday after Thanksgiving (November 25, 2016) and is a day of big deals and promotions for American shoppers. Black Friday is already popular in South Africa, as is Cyber Monday, the following Monday (November 28, 2016) when online shoppers are out in full force looking for tech and gaming bargains. We also see countries like Kenya and Nigeria following suite, with e-tailers planning big discounts.
If you’re a business builder with a small retail operation, you may wonder whether it’s a good idea to take part in the mayhem of the day where crowds pack shops and storm websites looking for bargains.
On the one hand, it’s a great opportunity to build some hype for your Small & Medium Business on a day that consumers are particularly receptive to spending money. On the other hand, your promotions and marketing may be drowned out by the noise generated by retailers with massive budgets for promotions and advertising.
So, let’s look at the pros and cons of Black Friday for small businesses.
- Shopper enthusiasm
Pro: Customers know about Black Friday and look forward to shopping for bargains on the day. There’s a high level of awareness and interest among those treating themselves or shopping for Christmas gifts.
Con: If customers expect you to have wonderful Black Friday deals every year, it might discourage them from spending money in the weeks leading up to the big day.
- Intense competition
Pro: If you’re agile enough, have the right offers and a sharp marketing message, you might be able to attract some good business with low-cost, tactical email and social media campaigns.
Con: The competition from other retailers is intense, especially with large ecommerce sites and big retail chains offering loss-leaders to get people into their stores to spend money. It can be hard to cut through the noise.
- Rid your business of old stock
Pro: It’s a great opportunity to market old inventory that you would need to mark down or dispose of, anyway.
Con: Customers are price-sensitive on Black Friday, and you could find yourself needing to discount aggressively to close sales.
- Scaling up for customer traffic
Pro: You can generate a lot of footfall into your shop or traffic for your website with the right offer.
Con: You need to be sure that you have the capacity to serve the customers you attract – if your website falls over under the weight of thousands of visitors, your delivery logistics aren’t up to scratch or you don’t have stock to service demand, it could damage your brand.
- Draw new prospects
Pro: Shoppers are adventurous on Black Friday, so you have an opportunity to attract new customers or to get customers to buy goods from you that they usually get somewhere else.
Con: It’s open to question how loyal some of these customers will be – they could simply be bargain hunters.
As the pros and cons show, there is no clear-cut answer about whether Black Friday is a must for small retailers – each must look at its business needs, customer expectations, capacity, and ability to execute before committing resources to Black Friday. What is clear, however, is that you must do Black Friday well if you are going to do it at all – or else you might end up with disappointing results and angry customers.
Elsewhere in the world, we have seen the rise of counter-movements to Black Friday – for example, Small Business Saturday. This originally started as an American Express initiative encouraging consumers to support small, local shops. It would certainly be interesting to see a movement like this on the African continent. As champions for South African entrepreneurs, we’d love every Saturday to be Small Business Saturday!
Dion Chang, Trends expert and founder of Flux Trends says: “We see a massive adoption of North American retail trends in South Africa – it is tested, it works and is already embedded in the minds of South Africans. Africa has an hour glass economy – with the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer and the middle class being squeezed – people are going for deals just to make ends meet. For big and small businesses, this is definitely an opportunity for them to join and leverage this trend for their brand.”
(Anton van Heerden is Sage’s Executive VP for Africa & Middle East).